Having reloaded with many high-priced free agents, the New York Yankees were expected to contend for a playoff spot this year, and their recent run has put them in the thick of the AL East race.
The Texas Rangers, meanwhile, are a surprise at the top of the AL West.
Impressive play in Arlington has keyed the Rangers’ surge, and they’ll be looking for a ninth straight home win Monday when the Yankees visit to open a three-game set.
New York begins a seven-game road trip after losing two of three at home to Philadelphia, but the Yankees (25-19) have won 10 of 12 overall after a slow start and they’re within a game of first-place Boston.
“Today we didn’t get it done but that doesn’t take away from what we did on the (10-game) homestand,” manager Joe Girardi said after a 4-3, 11-inning loss to the Phillies on Sunday. “We can’t expect these guys to do it every time.”
Newcomer Mark Teixeira(notes) continued his hot streak Sunday with a broken-bat home run. Teixeira, who was drafted by Texas and played there from 2003-07, is batting .397 with eight homers and 19 RBIs in his last 15 games.
The Rangers (26-17) have been just as good as New York lately, winning 16 of their last 21 by blending uncharacteristically good pitching with a potent offense. They haven’t won a division title since 1999 but enter the week with a three-game lead atop the West.
During their eight-game home winning streak—the team’s longest since a nine-game run in May 2005—the Rangers have hit .305 with 36 extra-base hits while scoring 48 runs.
“If we can continue to pitch the way we have been pitching and catch the ball - I know we can swing the bat - we’ll see what happens,” manager Ron Washington told the Rangers’ official Web site.
New York’s pitching also has improved, and with Chien-Ming Wang(notes) healthy and seemingly working his way back toward the rotation, Yankees youngster Phil Hughes(notes) could be pitching for his spot as a major league starter Monday.
Hughes (2-2, 7.06 ERA) rebounded from an ugly outing at Baltimore on May 9 by allowing three runs in five innings in each of his last two starts. He beat the Orioles on Wednesday as he struck out a career-high nine in an 11-4 victory.
In Hughes’ only previous appearance against the Rangers, the right-hander - then 20 years old - had a no-hitter through 6 1-3 innings in Arlington on May 1, 2007. But he had to leave the game with a hamstring injury.
Hughes, though, has given up two home runs in two straight outings and now heads to a ballpark which has seen an average of 3.0 homers per game this season, second in the AL behind the new Yankee Stadium.
Texas now hopes left-hander Matt Harrison(notes) can get back on track Monday. Harrison (4-3, 4.71) had won four straight starts and thrown back-to-back complete games going into Wednesday’s outing at Detroit, but he allowed five runs and three homers in five innings of a 5-3 loss.
As a rookie, Harrison beat the Yankees at home on Aug. 5, allowing two runs in 6 1-3 innings of Texas’ 8-6 win.
The Yankees had won 10 straight in Arlington before splitting a four-game series there in August.